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Friday, August 5

Fwd: The Weekly Shtikle - Matos / Mas'ei

Some time after the victorious military campaign against Midyan, (31:25-47), all of the booty - humans and animals - is counted and divided in two. One half is designated for the soldiers who fought the war and the other half is for the rest of B'nei Yisrael. Of the half that went to the soldiers, one out of 500 was to be given to Elazar. Of the half that went to the rest of the nation, one out of 50 was given to the Levi'im.

 

There are a number of puzzling nuances in this chapter. First the totals of the sheep, cattle, donkeys and humans are tallied. Then the halves to the soldiers are counted as well as Elazar's portion. The halves to the rest of the nation, although exactly the same as the halves to the soldiers are also counted. It is recounted that Moshe distributed the portion for the Levi'im but no count is given. Lastly, Elazar's portion is said to be "from the humans, from the cattle, from the donkeys and from the sheep." The same phrase is repeated with regards to the portion of the Levi'im but the words "mikol habeheimah," from all of the animals, is added.


Netzi"v in Ha'amek Davar suggests that "mikol habeheimah" includes other species of animals that were brought back that were fewer in number. Since they were fewer than 1000, there would not have been enough to give Elazar even one. Therefore, this phrase is left out of the command of Elazar's portion and these animals' numbers are not significant enough for the Torah to recount.

 

A fascinating approach is offered in the name of R' Shlomoh HaKohein of Vilna. Elazar's portion is referred to in the pasuk (29) as a "terumah laShem." One of the laws of terumah is that one may not separate from one species as terumah for another. Therefore, Elazar's portion was required to be one out of every 500 of each animal. However, this was not a requirement with the portion of the Levi'im and it was sufficient to give them 1/50 of all the animals combined. That is the meaning of "mikol habeheima." The Levi'im were given 1/50 of all the animals. And that is why the Torah does not go into any detail concerning the division for it was not exact.


Have a good Shabbos and Chodesh Tov.

Eliezer Bulka
WeeklyShtikle@weeklyshtikle.com

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